Investigating causality in associations between smoking initiation and schizophrenia using Mendelian randomization

Suzanne H. Gage*, Hannah J. Jones, Amy E. Taylor, Stephen Burgess, Stanley Zammit, Marcus R. Munafò

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
316 Downloads (Pure)


Smoking is strongly associated with schizophrenia. Although it has been widely assumed that this reflects self-medication, recent studies suggest that smoking may be a risk factor for schizophrenia. We performed a two-sample bi-directional Mendelian randomisation study using summary level genomewide association data from the Tobacco and Genetics Consortium and Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Variants associated with smoking initiation and schizophrenia were combined using an inverse-variance weight fixed-effects approach. We found evidence consistent with a causal effect of smoking initiation on schizophrenia risk (OR 1.71, 95% CI 1.30, 2.25, p<0.001). However, after relaxing the p-value threshold to include variants from more than one gene and minimize the potential impact of pleiotropy, the association was attenuated (OR 1.03, 95% CI 0.97, 1.09, p=0.32). There was little evidence in support of a causal effect of schizophrenia on smoking initiation (OR 1.01, 95%CI 0.98-1.04, p=0.32). MR Egger regression sensitivity analysis indicated no evidence for pleiotropy in the effect of schizophrenia on smoking initiation (intercept OR 1.01, 95%CI 0.99-1.02, p=0.49). Our findings provide little evidence of a causal association between smoking initiation and schizophrenia, in either direction. However, we cannot rule out a causal effect of smoking on schizophrenia (or vice versa) related to heavier, lifetime exposure, rather than initiation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number40653
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2017

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • smoking
  • schizophrenia
  • genetics
  • Mendelian randomization


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